Tuesday, June 23, 2009

From the Depths...psalm 130 (part 1)

1 A Song of Ascents. Out of the depths have I called to You, Lord.
2 O Lord, listen to my voice; let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
3 If You count iniquities, Lord, who could stand?
4 For with You there is forgiveness, that so that You will be feared.
5 I waited for the LORD, my soul waited, and in His word I yearned.
6 My soul is for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning; yea, more than watchmen for the morning.
7 O Israel, hope in the LORD; for with the LORD there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption.
8 And He will redeem Israel from all iniquities.

This well-known psalm finds its way into the Ashkenaz liturgy on mainly two occasions. The first is during the ten days of repentance where we have a heightened sense of our mortality as well as our capacity to redeem ourselves from sin. A second scenario is somewhat contemporary as we find times of crises in our modern lives, we conclude our morning services (and in times of war, afternoon and evening) with two small psalms, one of which is psalm 130 'mimaamakim keraticha Hashem'--from the depths I call out to you God.

Why was this psalm chosen? What renders it unique?

There is something eery about the depths. A literal translation from the Hebrew--mimaámakim, the depths connote a geographical, emotional, or spiritual nadir. A person in the depths has possibly been running away for so long, or perhaps life has trhust upon them such a heavy load they simply submerged--either way the depths have taken them, consumed them, distorted their reality and darkened their dreams.

Yet there is one thing which redeems the downtrodden, reminds the drowning spirit that there is still hope, a glimmer of light--that one thing is the call--keraticha Hashem (I call out to You my God). Human prayer involves a process of translating the mind's ruminations into words and statements before your invisible but very real God. The psalm recognizes that there are times when we have sunk to the lowest levels in our minds and hearts, yet precisely at those times what gives us rise is the call, the word, the utterance--keraticha Hashem!

I rise out of my depths with my language.
You rise out of your depths with your language.
Carl Sandburg (20th century poet)